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Monday, April 08, 2013

Epic Fail

Once upon a time, we took a full year sabbatical from Africa.  We enrolled in the MPH degree program at Hopkins, and rented a house in Baltimore.  And collected stuff.  Discards from relatives and friends, free stuff, hand-me-downs, a few antiques, an ikea table, chairs.  Books.  More books. Stuffed animals and toys, dishes and towels, tupperware and framed prints.  All the clutter of a life with four kids and two grandparents and community soccer and grad school. And at the end of that year only the most perishable photos made it into my parents' basement where they joined a lifetime collection of records and letters and school papers.  The rest of it was crammed in to free storage in a container at my dad's equipment yard.  Apparently we didn't have ANY time to organize and cull.  Or more likely, we were suffering from recent war and displacement and somehow believed that we were wisely preparing for the possibility of another disaster.

Instead, we provided excellent substrate for a dozen years of dust and mold.

And a mammoth task of sorting and disposal as we're losing the free storage, and now have to rent a small space for the few boxes of dishes from our wedding, photos, a table and chairs my mom doesn't want to move, less than ten percent of our books, some shelves.

What to do then with pretty much an entire household of hand-me-down stuff that we no longer have the margin to keep as an emergency stash?  And wouldn't particularly want to at this point.
Friends recommended a yard sale.  Put it on Craigs List, they said, and you'll see it all disappear. Hundreds of people scan these sales and snatch up the leftovers. Saturdays are best, so we got up very early on the day we flew out, and unloaded that container, and set our rock-botton one-dollar prices.  I was thinking of how we could put the money to good use.  We put up posters, and waited for the customers to roll in.

And waited.

And waited.

We had precisely three customers.

One lady bought two measuring cups.  One guy bought a weed wacker.  And the third looked and considered and then left.

It was an epic fail of a yard sale.  Our plane was coming in a couple hours, so we had to load it all back in and leave.

It felt like an epic fail of greater proportions.  A failure to understand the American yard sale scene, the mechanics of Craigs List (you have to repost every 24 hours), a failure to complete our task, to deal with our things, a failure to finish well.  A failure to keep this burden from falling to others. A failure to have things that anyone else values.

So tonight we remember our Good Friday sermon:  the disciples needed to understand that failure was the necessary beginning of redemption.  I don't know how this miserable yard sale failure will be redeemed, but I do know it will be, somehow, in the all-things-new of undone disappointments.


Travis and Amy said...

Take heart: our first (and last!) yard sale (pre-field) was also a failure. Proud of you to venture into that strange culture of yard sale-ing. I love the idea of one family's dinner topic question: "What did you fail at today?" Because if you are failing at something then it means you are trying something new. Cheers to the brave Myhres who venture into new places, such as yard sales!

Tim Wills said...

Any way I can help?

Sarah said...

Hoping this may help redeem this garage sale experience a bit: I went to the neighborhood garage sale day near my parents' home last weekend and bought over 200 books for the children's library in Bundibugyo for around $70!!!!! And many, many people gave their books and are continuing to do so from hearts of love and excitement. So though it doesn't help your garage sale, 1 point towards the win for garage sales overall perhaps? Also in agreement with the Johnsons, cheers for venturing into the new!